February 01, 2011

They Do Not Die So Things Become Difficult

I've been rereading the Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, my favorite fantasy series from those long-lost days as a fourth grade something.  The above illustration is the only one to make it past the thumbnail stage successfully.  It's from the first installment, The Book of Three, which is a super fast and intriguing and intense read that ends with not one, but two deus ex machinas and is ultimately way, way less satisfying than its successor, The Black Cauldron*.  But the composition was so strange, I was compelled to finish it.  I've started drawing in my sketchbooks a lot more, aiming to straighten out people and animals and armor and hair and clothes and horses way before the thumbnail stage.  It's quite fun, trying out little variations as you go along.

Gwydion didn't surprise me too much, he's frequently likened to a lone wolf, with shaggy hair and trail-beaten getup.  He quickly becomes mentor to the young protagonist, a source of authority and solidarity in his upturned world, which is why it's a tad disturbing when he's cut down so quickly by the Cauldron Born. 

The Cauldron Born are a Celtic take on zombies, corpses that are resurrected in the Black Cochran.  They're tireless, fearless and immortal warriors who move silently and never speak.  The text describes them in something of a uniform, with bronze waistbands and studs on their breastplates, but I ended up pushing them in a different direction, emphasizing the differences in their appearances  before death.  Zombies with braids! 

I've been drawing characters from the second book, but since other projects have to take precedence, they're in limbo right now.  I'm shooting for another illustration by next month, but I might end up posting sketchbooks instead.  Thanks for looking!

*A super-dark young adult read that I hardily recommend.  A heavy, heavy read, at least 50, maybe 60 lbs.  By all means, check it out.  But do us all a favor and don't watch the horrendously pathetic Disney movie of the same name.  Don't even think about it.  Stop it. 


  1. Besides really loving this piece, I couldn't help but think of this in terms of compositional comparison:


    Great minds? Maybe?

  2. Michael5:18 AM

    To get technical, dei ex machina is the recognized English plural, duder. But you knew that was coming.

    Anyway, I really like the layering in the top panel, and that's a fertile world full of possibilities for you to explore.

  3. Thanks dudes! @Rob: I occasionally do hook up with Big Mind, but this one's pure coincidence.
    @Ak: I actually had no idea. For shame, right?

  4. Michael9:45 PM

    Naw, dude, you're awesome.

  5. Thanks for the Prydain art. 'Hope to see more of it. Yesh. I like the braids.